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Chot sets sights on FIBA 2019

Chot Reyes

MANILA, Philippines - Newly reinstated Gilas head coach Chot Reyes said the other day his motivation on his third term at the helm of the national team is to bring the country back to the FIBA World Cup in China in 2019 and to the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.

Reyes was named Gilas head coach by SBP chairman emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan last Monday night and accepted the appointment on top of his recent assignment as TV5 president and CEO. Multi-tasking is something Reyes has been used to for years so it’s not a new experience.

“Honestly, if I were new to the Gilas job, it would be difficult,” he said. “But I’ve been there, I’ve had the experience. The key is building a great team in both jobs. Besides, Gilas isn’t an everyday job. At this point, it’s too early to name my coaching staff. I wouldn’t want to pre-empt anything. But coach Tab (Baldwin) will be our consultant like he was (at the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships and 2014 FIBA World Cup). Obviously, Nash (Racela) and Josh (Reyes) will be in our staff because of their familiarity with Gilas and our system.”

Reyes said the split draft that the PBA will conduct on Oct. 30 is an indication of a solid partnership between the SBP and the pro league in forming a competitive national team looking forward to FIBA’s new qualifying process for the World Cup and the Olympics. He admitted that a few players in the Gilas pool of 13 were initially reluctant to join the PBA draft.

“Some of the players in the pool wanted to stay with Gilas but not play in the PBA,” said Reyes. “But I explained to them that playing in the PBA is a major part of the training for Gilas. To be in the pool of 13 means you’re available for the PBA draft. That’s what was agreed on by the SBP and PBA.”

Reyes cited the case of Kiefer Ravena as a “grey area” in Gilas’ working arrangement with the PBA. “We don’t intend to handcuff anybody by requiring every Gilas player to apply for the PBA draft,” he said. “We’ll study the circumstances of each player. Take Kiefer’s case. He’s now working out with the Texas Legends of the NBA D-League and we’ve been informed by the Legends that under the terms of his contract, he can’t be drafted by any team. But the Legends are willing to release him for the national team if there is no conflict in schedules. So even if Kiefer applies for the PBA draft next year, it doesn’t mean he won’t be able to play for Gilas until then. Of course, if Gilas starts training and Kiefer is still in the US, he loses the chance of joining us.”

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In Bobby Ray Parks’ case, Reyes said he has no idea what the former UAAP MVP from NU has in mind. Parks is not in the SBP pool of 13 for the coming PBA draft. “Kiefer is a different case because he’s in touch with us,” said Reyes. “We know there are legal impediments which prevent him from joining the PBA draft this year. But for Ray-Ray, we don’t know what’s going on.”

Reyes welcomed the PBA’s commitment for each team to lend at least one player to the Gilas pool. “The idea is for every team to allow at least one player to join the Gilas pool but if a team wants to lend more than one player, why not?”

It was Reyes who captured the imagination of international coaches at the FIBA World Cup in Spain two years ago with his innovative and maverick style. He defied basketball norms by playing interchangeable pieces in his rotation and the unpredictability of his moves caught the attention of basketball experts who marvelled at how a team like the Philippines with a height deficiency could be competitive against powers like Argentina, Greece, Croatia and Puerto Rico boasting of NBA talent.

Reyes brought the Philippines back to the World Cup after a 36-year absence and led the national team to its first win in the FIBA conclave in 40 years. He’s also in the record books as the first Filipino to win a Jones Cup crown in 2012. Reyes, 53, piloted Gilas at the 2007 FIBA Asia Championships then Serbian Rajko Toroman took over. Reyes returned to call the shots for Gilas at the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships and left after the Asian Games the next year. Now, with a wealth of international basketball enriching his resume, Reyes is back to make the Philippines’ Olympic dream come true.

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